National Gallery of Canada urged to cancel talk by prof who refuses genderless pronouns

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National Gallery of Canada urged to cancel talk by prof who refuses genderless pronouns

Members of Ottawa's transgender community want the National Gallery of Canada to cancel a talk by Jordan Peterson, a Toronto psychology professor who has refused to call transgender students by their preferred pronouns.

Cara Tierney, a former employee of the gallery, has emailed the federal art institution to try to get the Peterson talk cancelled.

"Certainly, if there was a known anti-Semite who also perhaps had something interesting to say about psychology and creativity, I don't imagine that we would be inviting this individual to come and talk," Tierney said.

Tierney is an Ottawa-area artist and does not identify as a man or a woman. Rather than "he" or "she," Tierney asks people use the gender-neutral pronoun "they," which is favoured by some in the transgender community.

Peterson, who teaches psychology at the University of Toronto, became a lightning rod for controversy when he released videos arguing against political correctness on campus and said he should not be required to use gender-neutral pronouns.

In previous interviews he's claimed that being forced to use gender-neutral pronouns would amount to an imposition on the right to free speech, "a dangerous precedent to demand people use certain words."

Tierney said opposition to the Peterson event has been growing on social media.

Invitation preceded controversy

The National Gallery of Canada said Peterson has been invited to talk because of his expertise in the field of clinical psychology. 

"The Gallery invited him to speak about his specific research interest in the psychology of creativity, a subject he has spoken about at scientific conferences across North America and about which he has co-authored over 10 scientific papers," the gallery said in a statement.

Peterson sent an email to CBC News that said his invitation from the gallery preceded his "recent political travails."

"The topic is apolitical, and the issues arising from my well-publicized stance against compelled speech are completely irrelevant to the talk," Peterson said.

He said his March 9 talk will cover his research and the traits of temperament that contribute to creativity.

'A safe space'

Amanda Jette Knox, an LGBTQ advocate and mother of a transgender child, is also pressing for the gallery to cancel the talk.

"When someone is as vocal as he is and is given a platform, he's carrying his views with him to that platform, she said.

"Art itself has always been, historically, a safe space, a safe place for the queer community and so when our national art gallery is giving space to somebody who is very anti-LGBTQ then what does that say about our country?"